Salt, also Pitch Lake, also the Dead Sea, is what the mosaicist writes in the caption, quoting the Onomasticon of Eusebius who had in turn drawn upon the biblical text where the Dead Sea is also called the Sea of Marabah and Eastern Sea to distinguish it from the West Sea or Mediterranean.
In greco-roman times it was known as the Pitch Sea because of the bitumen that was extracted from it. During the same period it began being called Dead Sea because it lacked all form of life because of its highly concentrated salinity.
The Dead Sea
In the Bible it is the Salt Sea resulting from a divine curse against the cities of Sodom and Gomorra which cities rose in a "plain, irrigated everywhere like the garden of Yahweh or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar" (Gen 13,10).
Zoar, where the just man Lot , Abraham's nephew lived, was the only city to survive the destruction. On the south eastern shore of the Dead Sea the mosaicist presents the oasis of Balak or Segor now Zoara (modern-day Ghor al-Safy). This city was an episcopal seat in the byzantine epoch.
A church situated on a mountain to the east of the city is identified as being the shrine of Saint Lot. This shrine has been recently brought to light by archaeologists on a steep precipitous hill.
The caption the desert ,written in the plural and placed to the south of the Dead Sea, introduces the arid valley of Arabah which continues up to the coast of the Red Sea.
© Michele Piccirillo
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum,
Mount Nebo - Jordan